British citizens who own French homes must still abide by the Europen Union’s (EU’s) 90-day visa rules.
France’s Constitutional Council rejected on 25 January 2024 a proposal to ease post-Breit 90-day visa requirements for British second-home owners.
The Conseil Constitutionnel is the highest authority on constitutional matters in France. It ensures that constitutional principles and rules are upheld in the country.
The amendment is part of the controversial immigration bill that both houses of the French parliament passed in December 2023.
It would have allowed British nationals who own property in France long-stay visa rights without any formalities.
The bill would have circumvented the EU’s 90-day visa rule imposed on third-country nationals. Third-country nationals now include United Kingdom (UK) citizens after Brexit.
The French Constitutional Council rejected almost a third of the proposed immigration bill.
The Council also junked stricter access to social benefits and family reunification rules and the introduction of immigration quotas, among others.
Why the automatic long-stay visa right was scrapped
The French Constitutional Council rejected automatic long-stay visa rights for British second-home owners on procedural grounds.
The Council ruled that the proposal did not bear enough resemblance to the bill’s original wording. It also argued that it was unrelated, even indirectly.
Also called lesa sages or “the wise ones,” the members used Article 45 of the French Constitution to justify their ruling.
It stated that the conditions of stay in France for certain British nationals “would have no place in the law on the grounds that it would have been introduced at first reading.”
The government’s original text a year ago did not include the automatic long-stay visa rights provision for British homeowners.
Senator Martine Berthet added it as an amendment, which the senators then adopted as a new bill article.
The Local, citing French Constitution expert Thibaud Mulier, reported that Article 45’s rationale focuses on “legislative riders” or articles unrelated to the law’s intended purpose.
The proposal would also have to align with the original reasons for the bill. The immigration bill was proposed for “controlling immigration and improving integration.”
The Council said the provisions related to the British second-home owners “do not present a link, even indirect, with any other of the provisions.”
“Consequently, without the Constitutional Council prejudging the compliance of the content of these provisions with other constitutional requirements, it must be held that, having been adopted in accordance with a procedure that is contrary to the Constitution, they are therefore contrary to the Constitution,” ruled the French High Council.
France’s Constitutional Council, however, did not express an opinion on whether the automatic visa proposal violates the French Constitution.
However, there is no right to appeal against decisions of the Constitutional Council.
Easing the EU’s visa rules for British homeowners in France
After lawmakers added the provision for UK homeowners in France, those who opposed it had it swiftly struck out. This happened even before it reached the National Constituent Assembly for the first time.
French MPs argued that owning property in France is insufficient grounds to justify the exemption from visa requirements. It could also be seen as favoring a group of people due to their financial situation.
Still, lawmakers reintegrated the vaguely worded provision into the immigration before passing it.
“The long-stay visa is issued automatically to British citizens owning a second home in France. They are, therefore, exempt from having to make an application for a long-stay visa,” the amendment reads.
It would essentially return British homeowners in France to pre-Brexit rules. The bill would allow them to stay in their French homes for over 90 days.
British homeowners can only stay up to 90 days in France
France’s amendment to the immigration bill was potentially great news for UK nationals who own properties in France before Brexit.
Reports also showed a surge in searches for French properties by UK citizens. The number of British searching for French homes to buy was six times higher than usual.
Under post-Brexit visa regulations, the EU considers British nationals third-country nationals.
UK citizens can only stay in France or any other Schengen Area state without a visa for a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period.
Those who own property in France also cannot visit other EU countries if they have already spent 90 days in their French homes.
They must apply for a visa or residence permit to extend their stay or visit other countries in the Schengen Area.